Home Buffalo Press Releases 2013 Bank Employee Pleads Guilty in Large Tax Refund Scheme

Bank Employee Pleads Guilty in Large Tax Refund Scheme

U.S. Attorney’s Office June 05, 2013
  • Western District of New York (716) 843-5700

ROCHESTER, NY—U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul, Jr. announced today that Graciela Serra, 36, of Rochester, New York, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge David G. Larimer to conspiracy to commit tax fraud in connection with a large nationwide tax refund scheme. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard A. Resnick, who is handling the case, stated that from January 29, 2011 to October 31, 2011, Serra was involved in a scheme to obtain income tax refunds by the filing of fraudulent federal income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service. Specifically, stolen identities were utilized to file the fraudulent federal income tax returns, and the wages and related tax withholdings reported on the federal income tax returns were fabricated in order to obtain the refunds. Most of the returns were filed in the names and Social Security numbers of individuals residing in Puerto Rico without their knowledge. The refund checks issued as a result of the fraudulent returns were sent to various addresses in Rochester and other locations in the country.

Serra, while a teller at the Woodforest Bank on Hudson Avenue in Rochester, used her position at the bank to cash several of the fraudulent tax refund checks for other participants in the scheme who brought the fraudulent checks to her at the bank. The defendant cashed the checks knowing they were in the names of individuals other than the individuals who brought the checks to the bank. The defendant was paid a fee for cashing the checks.

“Using one’s position of trust to facilitate a crime is something our office takes very seriously,” said U.S. Attorney Hochul. “In this case, the defendant abused her position as a bank teller to cash fraudulent checks issued by the Internal Revenue Service. Such fraud against the government in reality impacts all Americans.”

The plea is the culmination of a joint investigation on the part of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel, and the Internal Revenue Service, under the direction of Toni M. Weirauch, Special Agent in Charge.

Sentencing is scheduled for September 20, 2013 before Judge Larimer.